One of the most unique things happening in sports right now is the development of athletes at earlier ages. High school athletes who receive offers to play Division I sports look like they could run circles around the pro athletes of just a few decades ago.
Most of that early development is due to the average athlete being introduced to strength training at an earlier age.
Whether it is resistance drills with their siblings in the backyard or learning how to do a squat before they get their training wheels off, kids are more exposed to fitness and strength than ever. And that means parents need to know the pros and cons.
Here are five things every parent should consider before their little one starts bulking up:
Starting Younger Is Almost Always Better
Training the muscles your child is using in sports is the most responsible thing they can do to help them succeed and remain active for longer. It offers your child an edge on the field, helps them develop control over their mind and bodies, and limits the number of injuries due to fatigue.
At the same time, this rule is not always the best one to follow. If a child is small for their class or underdeveloped for their age group, speak with their physician before taking them to the gym. While age 7 or 8 is an acceptable time to start strength training, doing too much too early can have lasting negative effects.
Make Strength Training Fun
While they are young, kids have to have time to be kids. While they may talk about wanting to become great, it is a parent or coach's responsibility to make the start of the process fun.
Instead of taking them to a crowded gym, find an outdoor space to see who can run up the hill faster or who can hop the longest on one leg. Frog squats, pushups, burpies, crab walks and bear crawls are all low impact ways for children below age ten to build important muscles.
Additionally, being more creative in how you introduce strength training to young athletes can help curb the fatigue of playing and training for sports. When kids find training fun, they'll naturally become a better teammate and competitor.
Make Sure Your Child Is Interested In Lifting
For most kids who dream of playing in the NFL or winning an Olympic gold medal, the reality of how that happens is not in the front of their mind. To excel in any sport, from Table Tennis to Rock Climbing to Handball, developing the right muscles and learning how to train is one of the most essential parts.
But, as you introduce weightlifting and strength training to a young athlete, it is important that they are interested and understand the benefits. If weight training is a chore, look for ways to make it more fun. If its intimidating and hard, reinforce them by telling them it is part of the process and no professional athlete got their without sacrifice.
Starting To Lift In High School Is Too Late
The number one rule for young athletes is to start weight training before starting high school. Experts say that if you wait until a high school coach introduces lifting to an athlete, they can be as far as ten years behind other athletes in their class.
Be cautious of how and when you introduce weight-lifting to children, but above all, make sure you are giving them a chance. Education and monitoring is vital before your child steps into the squat rack, but introducing it to them at a younger age can make all the difference.